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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                 31

Uzbek lay like a small dark patch on the snow. Alexei
was extremely disappointed. Disappointed, but not
frightened. It made him want to push on faster. He got
up from the hummock, tightly clenched his teeth and
moved on, choosing close targets, concentrating his mind
upon them—from pine-tree to pine-tree, from stump to
stump, from hummock to hummock. And as he moved on
he left a winding, irregular track on the virgin snow on
the deserted forest road, like that left by a wounded

And so he moved on until the evening. When the sun,
setting somewhere behind him, threw its cold, red glare
upon the tree tops and the grey shadows began to thicken
in the forest, he came to a hollow overgrown with juniper,
and there a scene opened before his eyes that made
him feel as if a cold wet towel was being passed
down his spine, and his hair stood on end under his
Evidently, while the fighting was proceeding in the
glade, a medical company had been posted in this hollow.
The wounded had been brought here and laid on beds of
pine-needles. And here they were, still lying in the shelter
of the bushes, some half-buried and others completely
buried under the snow. It was clear from the first glance
that they had not died from their wounds. Somebody had
cut their throats with skilful strokes of a knife, and they
all lay in the same posture, with their heads thrown back
as if trying to see what was going on behind them. And
here too was the explanation of this frightful scene.
Under a pine-tree, next to the snow-covered body of a
Soviet Army man, sat a nurse, waist-deep in the snow,
holding the soldier's head in her lap, a small, frail-looking
girl wearing a fur cap, the ear-flaps of which were tied
under her chin with tape. Between her shoulder-blades
protruded the highly polished handle of a dagger. Near
by lay the bodies of a fascist, in the black uniform of the
SS, and of a Soviet Army man with a blood-stained
bandage on his head. The two were clutching each other
by the throat in a last mortal 2:rip. Alexei guessed at once